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Why is Old Workers' Labor Market More Volatile? Unemployment Fluctuations over the Life-Cycle

  • Hairault, Jean-Olivier


    (University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

  • Langot, François


    (University of Le Mans)

  • Sopraseuth, Thepthida


    (University of Cergy-Pontoise)

Since the last recession, it is usually argued that older workers are less affected by the economic downturn because their unemployment rate rose less than the one of prime-age workers. This view is a myth: older workers are more sensitive to the business cycle. We document volatilities of worker flows and hourly wage across age groups on CPS data. We find that old worker's job flows are characterized by a higher responsiveness to business cycles than their younger counterparts. In contrast, their wage cyclicality is lower than prime-age workers'. Beyond this empirical contribution, we show that a life-cycle Mortensen & Pissarides (1994) model is well suited to explain these facts: older workers' shorter work-life expectancy endogenously reduces their outside options and leads their wages to be less sensitive to the business cycle. Thus, in a market where wage adjustments are small, quantities vary a lot: this is the case for older workers, whereas the youngest behave like infinitively-lived agents. Our theoretical results point out that Shimer (2005)'s view on the MP model is consistent with prime-age workers' labor market while aging endogenously introduces real wage rigidities, allowing to match what we observe for old workers, without specific assumptions as in Hagendorn & Manovskii (2008).

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 8076.

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Length: 61 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8076
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  1. Jean-Olivier Hairault & Francois Langot & Thepthida Sopraseuth, 2010. "Distance to Retirement and Older Workers' Employment: The Case for Delaying the Retirement Age," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(5), pages 1034-1076, 09.
  2. Michael Elsby & Bart Hobjin & Aysegül Sahin, 2010. "The labor market in the Great Recession," Working Paper Series 2010-07, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  3. Guido Menzio & Irina A. Telykova & Ludo Visschers, 2012. "Directed search over the life cycle," Economics Working Papers we1210, Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Economía.
  4. Chéron, Arnaud & Hairault, Jean-Olivier & Langot, François, 2011. "Life Cycle Equilibrium Unemployment," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 1103, CEPREMAP.
  5. Lars Ljungqvist & Thomas J. Sargent, 2008. "Two Questions about European Unemployment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(1), pages 1-29, 01.
  6. Robert Shimer, 2007. "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 13421, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Guido Menzio & Shouyong Shi, 2009. "Block Recursive Equilibria for Stochastic Models of Search on the Job," NBER Working Papers 14907, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Christopher Pissarides, 2007. "The unemployment volatility puzzle: is wage stickiness the answer?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 4460, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  9. Sekyu Choi & Alexandre Janiak & Benjamín Villena-Roldán, 2015. "Unemployment, Participation and Worker Flows Over the Life-Cycle," Working Papers 617, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  10. Jonathan Heathcote & Fabrizio Perri & Giovanni L. Violante, 2009. "Unequal we stand: an empirical analysis of economic inequality in the United States, 1967-2006," Staff Report 436, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  11. Hagedorn, Marcus & Manovskii, Iourii, 2008. "The cyclical behavior of equilibrium unemployment and vacancies revisited," Working Paper Series 0853, European Central Bank.
  12. Barron, John M & Berger, Mark C & Black, Dan A, 1997. "Employer Search, Training, and Vacancy Duration," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(1), pages 167-92, January.
  13. Paul Gomme & Richard Rogerson & Peter Rupert & Randall Wright, 2005. "The Business Cycle and the Life Cycle," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2004, Volume 19, pages 415-592 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  16. Elsby, Michael & Smith, Jennifer C. & Wadsworth, Jonathan, 2011. "The Role of Worker Flows in the Dynamics and Distribution of UK Unemployment," IZA Discussion Papers 5784, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  17. Ana Castaneda & Javier Diaz-Gimenez & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull, 2003. "Accounting for the U.S. Earnings and Wealth Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(4), pages 818-857, August.
  18. Petrongolo, Barbara & Pissarides, Christopher, 2000. "Looking Into The Black Box: A Survey Of The Matching Function," CEPR Discussion Papers 2409, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  19. Arnaud Chéron & Jean-Olivier Hairault & François Langot, 2011. "Age-Dependent Employment Protection," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) hal-00623282, HAL.
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